Mar 14, 2012, 10.43 PM | Source: IBNLive.com
Sources say that the TMC leader has suggested Mukul Roy's name for the post of Railway Minister after Trivedi is removed.
"We did not know that there will be a fare hike. We do not agree to a fare hike and we will not let it happen," said Banerjee.
With Trivedi indicating that he would resign from the Union Cabinet if Benrejee desired so, a minister losing his job within hours of presenting a Budget in Parliament is a distinct possibility.
Also watch the report on the issue by CNBC-TV18's Amrita Panja
The absurd drama of Indian politics in general and of the Trinamool Congress in particular reached a new height minutes after the presentation of the Railway Budget for 2012-13 by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi. No sooner had Trivedi completed his speech announcing an across-the-board hike in passenger fares, ranging from 5 paise to 30 paise per kilometre, that the TMC, to which he belongs, came put strongly against the fare hike. Senior TMC MPs Sudeep Bandyopadhyay and Derek O' Brien both vented their objections.
Even in the mystifying labyrinth of Indian politics, this is something of a precedent. The TMC is known for the iron hand with which its chief Mamata Banerjee runs it. Virtually no decision is taken in the party without her active involvement or, at the very least, approval. Sure enough, Trivedi was believed to be close to losing his job as Railway Minister, a portfolio handed down to him by Banerjee when she became Chief Minister of West Bengal in 2011.
Trivedi claimed that the decision to raise fares was his own and was done in consultation with the Aam Aadmi, and that the party leadership was unaware. This can only be correct if he had a death wish as far as his future with the TMC is concerned, given that Banerjee brooks little display of individual initiative. Moreover, this particular step was clearly against her credo of protecting the interest of the common man, no matter what the economic price is.
The alternative exclamation, is that this was a carefully choreographed act in the increasingly ludicrous theatre of threats and ultimatums that the TMC occupies centrestage in. It is hard to calibrate the political gains that can accrue from such a move, however. Logically, the TMC could still have maintained its pro-poor stance by not hiking fares and tomtomming this achievement. But this party and its leader thrive on an enemy – no achievement is real until it has been gained through opposition rather than through administration.
All this, of course, is pure guesswork. The truth may never be known. But when it comes to reducing important issues to the level of bewildering farces, it is hard to match the TMC and Banerjee.
Trivedi said Mamata never interfered in his decision. "Railway doesn't operate from the Writers Building. I did what is best for railways. I have done my duty. If you want to roll back, roll back on safety too," he said.
TMC Lok Sabha MP and Minister of State for Health, Bandhopadhay, said: "We have asked Dinesh Trivedi to announce a roll back in fares. The fare hike is unwarranted." When pointed out that Trivedi was a member of the Trinamool Congress, Bandopadhyay said the Railway Minister has performed his "constitutional duty" by presenting the Budget. "The Trinamool Congress never rolls back its demand," Bandopadhyay said.
With a spate of fatal accidents in the past few years, Trivedi said safety would be the prime focus of his ministry during the 12th Five Year Plan, along with network expansion and modernisation.
"The hike is in paisa, people can afford this hike. Bhagat Singh lost his life, losing a chair is no big deal, Mamata is not so unreasonable. I have taken a conscious decision, I'm in politics for the people. Mamata has never ever interfered with my work. I have done what was required to do for the betterment of the railways," Dinesh Trivedi told the CNN-IBN.
Meanwhile Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: "We take populism to ridiculous levels. I genuinely believe people would happily accept the modest hike if safety & quality of service better."